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8FillTheHeart

To lower your stress level during this college app season

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https://ed.stanford.edu/news/first-step-choosing-right-college-ignore-rankings-says-stanford-researcher

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Indeed, when it comes to student learning, well-being, job satisfaction and future income — four key outcomes that students and their families value highly — studies suggest that students themselves determine their destinies, not their schools.

"Research tells us that the most successful students, both in college and beyond, are the ones who engage in the undergraduate experience regardless of how selective a school may be," says the paper’s co-author Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the GSE and co-founder of Challenge Success, which seeks to redefine success in student learning and achievement. "This is almost always the case whether a student attends the top-ranked or 200th-ranked college."

My kids' career and grad school acceptance outcomes are represented by the above.  Definitely a firm believer in the individual determining the path, not the institution.

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Thanks for the link, 8.

As we near being ready to submit the Common App, my stress is starting to transfer from dd getting in to her making a decision. After speaking with several people, college visits, reading admissions books, stats, etc, I'm realizing just how many things are out of our control with admissions. Many, many qualified students will receive "rejection" letters. There will be bewildering situations of seemingly less qualified students being admitted, etc. So after the dust of acceptances and denials settles and the reality of the level of financial aid packages sinks in, how does one go about making sense of everything? Of seeing through the hype?

I've left ultra-selective/elite colleges feeling underwhelmed and disillusioned, and I've been confused and dismayed by general overall trashing (not on here) of lower-ranked schools that had some unexpected strengths. 

I'm not sure how to make sense of it all. I'm also not sure what I'm asking... Is anyone else struggling with this? 

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I thought this was going to be posting the annual college applications by zombies link.

(I can't get the 'flash' to work in the browser I am on, but hopefully some of you can. It is worth a smile.)

WMA: I'm hopeful whatever decision my kid makes will be the "right" one for her. (We are lucky that she is grounded in reality and her top picks are good because she can thrive at any of them.)

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I guess I'm struggling with knowing the reality of the schools... The more we research and visit, the more confused I become. I hadn't expected that...

Is it truly possible to know before actually attending? We are getting so many mixed messages, reading so much conflicting information. It's not starry-eyed devotion to Ivy League schools or anything like that at all. She's taken some elite schools off her list, even though she has the stats, etc.

What is a real red-flag and what is just a disgruntled, complaining student? Or multiple disgruntled, complaining students? 

What is a legitimate problem, isolated at one particular school, and what is something that will be on every college campus?

Edited by Woodland Mist Academy
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44 minutes ago, Woodland Mist Academy said:

I guess I'm struggling with knowing the reality of the schools... The more we research and visit, the more confused I become. I hadn't expected that...

Is it truly possible to know before actually attending? We are getting so many mixed messages, reading so much conflicting information. It's not starry-eyed devotion to Ivy League schools or anything like that at all. She's taken some elite schools off her list, even though she has the stats, etc.

What is a real red-flag and what is just a disgruntled, complaining student? Or multiple disgruntled, complaining students? 

What is a legitimate problem, isolated at one particular school, and what is something that will be on every college campus?

 

I struggle with this, too.  There are so many things you can't find out from a campus visit or an admissions officer.  

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There are so many questions that are difficult to answer from just one visit or talking to an admission's officer. Here are some, but definitely not all, of the questions that we've had about different places. (Seeing what kids who currently attend different schools complain about is very enlightening.)

How tough is it to get into classes? How often are classes offered? Will departments offer a class with only a few students? Are undergrads allowed to do research (if that is something your kid wants)? 

How difficult is it to do study abroad? (In some colleges, it is incredibly common to do some form of SA and people help you through the process. In others, it is offered, but there are a lot more hoops to jump through to get courses approved.) What happens to your scholarship &/or room while you are gone?

What type of housing is there & how hard is it to get into? (I have a kid who does not want to go down the hall to the bathroom.) Is housing guaranteed (if that's what you need)? If your kid has food allergies, what is that like on a regular basis (non-visit days)? Are there flexible food plans (for your picky eater, for your BIG eater, for your kid who <insert the blank>?)? 

How common are internships/co-ops? (see the Study Abroad section for similar questions about helping through the process & what happens with your stuff while you are working) Who typically visits campus to hire for your kid's likely major(s)?

What do kids who live far away do with their stuff over summer? How difficult/expensive is it to store things?

How difficult is it to make friends if you don't go Greek? (females & males might have different answers here) What is the faith community like for your denomination/flavor of spirituality? What is the political climate like - including how accepting the campus is of your kid's particular interests/leanings? How likely is your kid to find their "tribe"?

How difficult is it to change majors? When are GPAs checked for scholarship purposes? Is there a 'probational' period where the kid can bring the GPA back up & get back the scholarship?

Are fees covered by a scholarship? If not, how much are the fees? Are there fees that aren't noticeable up front (like a "health fee" that everyone pays -- but which ends up being close to $3,000 a year)?

ETA:  Parking concerns if your kid is taking a car to campus. Or shuttles/bus if they don't.

Also, taking tests -- how many classes use the 'test center' outside of classtime? how is the reservation system?

College Confidential & reddit tend to be places I've seen current students & their parents talking about some of these things.

Edited by RootAnn
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My major source of stress right now is whether DD will end up with any choices that are financially feasible. I am not really worried about admittance. DD is looking for very specific programs in the health sciences, and the schools that offer these programs are mostly all within her reach academically. But, only one of them is a school that meets full need, and that school is a reach for her academically. In state cost at our state university is $28,000.  My great fear is that we will not have options that are less than the $25,000-$30,000 yearly price tag. We have saved enough to cover about $15,000 a year. I am just wrapping my head around coming up with the remainder for the next 5-6 years. And DD is our first child to go to college. Yikes!

I am trying hard to ignore all the nonsense about school rankings etc. In DD's case, it is the quality of the specific programs that matter, not the ranking of the whole school. 

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2 minutes ago, hepatica said:

My major source of stress right now is whether DD will end up with any choices that are financially feasible. I am not really worried about admittance. My great fear is that we will not have options that are less than the $25,000-$30,000 yearly price tag.

 

I have the same stress.  Dd has great stats and could get great merit at some schools but she has specific needs/requirements that aren't a good fit for the schools that offer the big merit scholarships.  The schools that are good fits for her are a higher cost of attendance after merit scholarships than we are comfortable spending.  In our case, she's our fourth (and last) to attend college and DH is ready to retire.  

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Just now, Kassia said:

 

I have the same stress.  Dd has great stats and could get great merit at some schools but she has specific needs/requirements that aren't a good fit for the schools that offer the big merit scholarships.  The schools that are good fits for her are a higher cost of attendance after merit scholarships than we are comfortable spending.  In our case, she's our fourth (and last) to attend college and DH is ready to retire.  

Yes, this sounds like our situation. The $25K-$30 is after big merit scholarships which cut the price more than 50% but are still double our EFC. It's daunting, but I guess we are fortunate enough to have savings to cover about half of that. I am also nervous about the extra 1-2 years. Her programs of interest are direct entry Masters or Doctorate in health sciences, so they are 5-6 year programs. The final 1-2 years could likely be even more expensive than the first 4. 

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10 hours ago, Woodland Mist Academy said:

I guess I'm struggling with knowing the reality of the schools... The more we research and visit, the more confused I become. I hadn't expected that...

Is it truly possible to know before actually attending? We are getting so many mixed messages, reading so much conflicting information. It's not starry-eyed devotion to Ivy League schools or anything like that at all. She's taken some elite schools off her list, even though she has the stats, etc.

What is a real red-flag and what is just a disgruntled, complaining student? Or multiple disgruntled, complaining students? 

What is a legitimate problem, isolated at one particular school, and what is something that will be on every college campus?

My kids have found meeting with the dept and sitting in on upper level classes the best way to evaluate a school's fit for their needs. It has been interesting to watch them bc their preconceived notions and prejudices have often left them speechless in disbelief afterward bc nothing turned out the way they had anticipated.  Schools they had most looked forward to visiting have left them cold and schools they were unsure of have moved up to the top of their lists. Only a very few have come out the way they thought they would.

Bama was at the absolute bottom of ds's list. It was an afterthought application and neither one of us thought it would ever be anything other than that back up school that was there if he wanted it.  After 2 disastrous dept visits (one I wrote about on the forums bc it was so unbelievably bad) and one meh one, we visited Bama. Ds immediately connected the dept. The UG advisor talked to him about his experiences when he was ds's age. They started swapping stories about profs lending them books from their personal libraries. He told ds about his yrs as an UG at MIT and how he would compare the 2 depts. Everything he promised ds he could do in their dept was a completely accurate representation of what ended up happening. Everything he shared about what he saw ds's options as being If attended different programs was equally accurate.  Ds was pretty much sold on Bama after that visit.

Dd had been convinced she wanted a small LAC. She wouldn't even really consider a large university. Then we started going on college visits and meeting the depts and sitting in on classes and after a while she wouldn't even consider small schools bc she said she felt claustrophobic and completely limited in options. She, unlike ds, also factored dorm and bathroom situations as a high priority filter. The school where she connected immediately with a Russian professor who was so affirming and encouraging is the school where she wanted to attend and does.  That Russian professor is still her go-to person for advice and friendly mentoring. The original campus where she had thought she wanted to attend and did an overnight was left in the dust when I went to pick her up and she was like get me outta here.

Fwiw, my kids have sat in on classes at a lot of schools and the school where dd was shocked the most by the classes was WF. We went there after UKy and the UKy equivalent class that she sat in on was far superior in level/teaching than the WF class.  

There are so many variables. Teachers are a big part of it. Dept culture, too. Not just campus culture. Dining, dorms, bathrooms.....those can matter just as much to some kids as sports or no Greek, etc do to others. There is no simple way to answer the question other than the student deciding what really matters to them. (And my current Jr s #1 filter is being able to live at home. It isn't the one I want her to use and we made her go 3 different camps on college campuses this past summer bc of it. But she is still adamant that that is the choice she wants to make.)

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This is a really great report and I recommend reading the whole thing. It's only about a dozen pages so about the length of a chapter in a college advice book.

One of the lines that jumped out was the observation that if you looked only at the top 5% of colleges you would still have a list of 200 schools.

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